Clayton Schenkelberg, who at age 103 was believed to be America’s oldest Pearl Harbor survivor, died April 14 at a San Diego senior care facility.
Born a year before the Spanish flu swept the country, his final year included a run-in with the current pandemic, COVID-19. He caught it but didn’t get sick, family members said.
In between, he experienced one of the most fateful days in modern U.S. history, the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor that led to the United States’ involvement in World War II. A Navy torpedoman at a submarine base, Schenkelberg volunteered to drive a train loaded with the underwater missiles away from strafing Japanese airplanes. Then he ran to an armory, grabbed a rifle and started shooting back.
After the war, he stayed in the Navy for two more decades, got married and raised seven children, and eventually settled in San Diego, where he had a second career as a high school custodian.
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